Election of 1848 Slavery Becomes a National Issue - History


In 1848 a new political party wars founded- The Free Soil Party. The party pledged to end the spread of slavery. They nominated Martin Van Buren as their Presidential candidate. The Democrats nominated Lewis Cass as their presidential candidate who supported the idea that each territory should decide for itself whether to allow slavery. the Whigs nominated Zachary Taylor the American General who had led the war against Mexico. The major issue in the election campaign was slavery, and this centered on the issue of whether to allow the areas acquired because of the Mexican War to allow slavery. Although Van Buren did not carry any states the 10% of the vote that he received was enough to insure Taylor's victory. Taylor won 139,000 more votes then Casss. His victory was national carrying both Northern and Southern states. For the first time however, slavery had become an election issue.

Why the Whig Party Collapsed

In the mid-19th-century, the two most powerful political parties in the United States were the Democrats and the Whigs. In two presidential elections, 1840 and 1848, Americans voted a Whig into the White House. And some of the most prominent political voices of the contentious pre-Civil War era were Whigs, including Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and a one-term Illinois congressman named Abraham Lincoln.

But for all of their prominence and power, the Whigs couldn’t keep it together. The all-consuming issue of slavery was the Whigs’ ultimate undoing, pitting Northern and Southern Whigs against each other, and scattering Whig leadership to upstart third parties like the Know Nothings and the Republicans.

Over the course of a little more than 20 years, the Whig party experienced a meteoric political rise that was rivaled only by its abrupt and total collapse.


Whig Party nomination Edit

Mexican–American War General Zachary Taylor of Louisiana, an attractive candidate because of his successes on the battlefield, but who had never voted in an election himself, was openly courted by both the Democratic and Whig parties. Taylor ultimately declared himself a Whig, and easily took their nomination, receiving 171 delegate votes to defeat Henry Clay, Winfield Scott, Daniel Webster and others.

After Webster turned down the vice-presidential candidacy, Millard Fillmore received the party's nomination for vice-president, defeating—among others—Abbott Lawrence, a Massachusetts politician whose mild opposition to slavery led him to be dubbed a "Cotton Whig". [4]

Democratic Party nomination Edit

While former President Martin Van Buren once again sought the Democratic nomination, he withdrew before balloting began due to a dispute over the seating of the New York delegation that culminated in the convention voting that half of the state's delegates be made up of the anti-slavery "Barnburner" faction, led by Van Buren, with the remaining half from the pro-slavery "Hunker" faction.

Van Buren, knowing he had no feasible path to winning the nomination without the full support of the New York delegation, promptly led the Barnburners in walking out of the convention. After it was further ruled the Hunkers would not be allowed to take the vacated seats of their absent Barnburner counterparts, they cast blank ballots during the voting.

As a result of Van Buren's withdrawal, Senator Lewis Cass and incumbent Secretary of State James Buchanan were seen as the only serious contenders for the nomination, with a draft effort also focusing on Supreme Court associate justice Levi Woodbury. In stark contrast to the highly contested and protracted convention at the previous (and subsequent) election, Cass held a wide lead on all four ballots, only being denied victory on the third due to the convention rules requiring a two-thirds majority, before the Buchanan and Woodbury campaigns quietly released enough delegates to allow Cass victory on the fourth ballot. [5] Cass had served as Governor and Senator for Michigan, as well as Secretary of War under Andrew Jackson, and from 1836 to 1842 as ambassador to France. General William O. Butler was nominated to join Cass on the ticket, garnering 169 delegate votes to defeat five other candidates, including future Vice-President William R. King and future Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Though he had made few public statements on the matter, Cass had long been suspected of pro-South leanings (while Butler was known to be a moderate abolitionist, he still owned slaves himself), and the convention agreed on a platform that made no mention of the issue. This failed to mollify Van Buren's supporters, most of whom bolted to form the Free Soil Party, eventually followed by Van Buren himself.

Free Soil Party nomination Edit

The Free Soil Party was organized for the 1848 election to oppose further expansion of slavery into the western territories. Much of its support came from disaffected anti-slavery Barnburner Democrats and Conscience Whigs, including former President Martin Van Buren. The party was led by Salmon P. Chase and John Parker Hale and held its 1848 convention in Utica and Buffalo, New York. On June 22, Van Buren defeated Hale by a 154-129 delegate count to capture the Free Soil nomination, while Charles Francis Adams, whose father (John Quincy Adams) and grandfather (John Adams) had both served as president, was chosen as the vice-presidential nominee.

Van Buren knew that the Free Soilers had not the slightest chance of winning, rather that his candidacy would split the Democratic vote and throw the election to the Whigs. Bitter and aging, Van Buren did not care despite the fact that his life had been built upon the rock of party solidarity and party regularity. He loathed Lewis Cass and the principle of popular sovereignty with equal intensity. [6]

Liberty Party nomination Edit

Despite their significant showing in the prior presidential election, certain events would conspire to remove the Liberty Party from political significance.

Initially, the nomination was to be decided in the fall of 1847 at a Convention in Buffalo, New York. There, Senator John P. Hale was nominated over Gerrit Smith, brother-in-law to the party's previous nominee James G. Birney. Leicester King, a former judge and state senator in Ohio, was nominated to be Hale's running mate. Anti-slavery Democrats and Whigs, disappointed with their respective nominees, would form a new movement in conjunction with members of the Liberty Party such as John Hale and Salmon Chase to form the Free Soil Party that summer. At this point, both Hale and King withdrew in favor of a Free Soil ticket led by former President Martin Van Buren, and the great majority of members of the Liberty Party followed them into the new political party. A small faction refused to support Van Buren for the presidency, however. They held another convention in June 1848 as the "National Liberty Party." Gerrit Smith was nominated almost unanimously with Charles Foote, a religious minister from Michigan, as his running-mate.

Other nominations Edit

The Native American Party, a precursor to the Know Nothings, which had split from the Whig Party in 1845, met in September 1847 in Philadelphia, where they nominated Zachary Taylor for president and Henry A. S. Dearborn of Massachusetts for vice-president. However, when the Whig Party nominated Taylor for the presidency with Millard Fillmore as his running mate the following year, this rendered his previous nomination moot and the Native American Party failed to make an alternate nomination.

Campaign Edit

The campaign was fought without much enthusiasm, and practically without an issue. Neither of the two great parties made an effort to rally the people to the defense of any important principle.

Whig campaigners, who included Abraham Lincoln and Rutherford B. Hayes, talked up Taylor's "antiparty" opposition to the Jacksonian commitment to the spoils system and yellow-dog partisanship. In the South, they stressed that he was a Louisiana slaveholder, while in the North they highlighted his Whiggish willingness to defer to Congress on major issues (which he subsequently did not do).

Democrats repeated, as they had for many years, their opposition to a national bank, high tariffs, and federal subsidies for local improvements. The Free Soilers branded both major parties lackeys of the Slave Power, arguing that the rich planters controlled the agenda of both parties, leaving the ordinary white man out of the picture. They had to work around Van Buren's well-known reputation for compromising with slavery.

The Whigs had the advantage of highlighting Taylor's military glories. With Taylor remaining vague on the issues, the campaign was dominated by personalities and personal attacks, with the Democrats calling Taylor vulgar, uneducated, cruel and greedy, and the Whigs attacking Cass for graft and dishonesty. The division of the Democrats over slavery allowed Taylor to dominate the Northeast. [7]

The Free Soilers were on the ballots in only 17 of the 29 states with the popular vote, making it mathematically possible for Van Buren to win the presidency, but he had no real chance. Still, the party campaigned vigorously, particularly in the traditional Democratic strongholds in the northeast.

While some Free Soilers were hopeful of taking enough states to throw the election into the House of Representatives, Van Buren himself knew this was a long shot and that the best that his party could do was lay the groundwork for a hopefully improved showing in 1852.

1848 campaign artwork Edit

Artwork for "Fort Harrison March," a campaign song for Zachary Taylor's presidential campaign which recalled his triumph at the Siege of Fort Harrison in 1812. [8]

Political cartoon about the election campaign, titled "Shooting the Christmas Turkey"

"Grand Presidential sweep-stakes" - political cartoon of the three main candidates

Results Edit

With Taylor as their candidate, the Whigs won their second and last victory in a Presidential election. Taylor won the electoral college by capturing 163 of the 290 electoral votes, while the popular vote was close: Taylor out-polled Cass in the popular vote by 138,000 votes, winning 47% of the popular vote, and was elected president.

A shift of less than 6000 votes to Cass in Georgia and Maryland would have left the electoral college in a 145–145 tie, while a shift of less than 27,000 votes to Van Buren in Connecticut, Maine and Massachusetts would have left both Taylor and Cass short of the 146 electoral votes required to win, forcing a contingent election in the House of Representatives.

A study of the county returns reveals that Free Soil strength drawn at the expense of the major parties differed by region. In the East North Central States, it appears at least the majority of the Free Soil strength was drawn from the Whig Party.

Conversely, in the Middle Atlantic region, Free Soil bases of strength lay in the areas which had hitherto been Democratic, particularly in New York and northern Pennsylvania. The Free Soil Democrats nomination of Van Buren made the victory of Taylor nearly certain in New York. On election day, enough Democratic votes were drawn away by Van Buren to give the Whig ticket all but two Democratic counties, thus enabling it to carry hitherto impregnable parts of upper New York state. The Democrats, confronted with an irreparable schism in New York, lost the election.

In New England, the Democratic vote declined by 33,000 from its 1844 level, while the Whig vote likewise declined by 15,000 votes. The third-party vote tripled, and the total vote remained nearly stationary: a partial indication, perhaps, of the derivation of the Free Soil strength in this section. For the first time since the existence of the Whig Party, the Whigs failed to gain an absolute majority of the vote in Massachusetts and Vermont. In addition, the Democrats failed to retain their usual majority in Maine thus only New Hampshire (Democratic) and Rhode Island (Whig) of the states in this section gave their respective victorious parties clear-cut majorities.

Of the 1,464 counties/independent cities making returns, Cass placed first in 753 (51.43%), Taylor in 676 (46.17%), and Van Buren in 31 (2.12%). Four counties (0.27%) in the West split evenly between Taylor and Cass. This was the first time in the Second Party System in which the victorious party failed to gain at least a plurality of the counties as well as of the popular vote.

As one historian remarks, somewhat sarcastically, practically the only thing it decided was that a Whig general should be made President because he had done effective work in carrying on a Democratic war.

This was the last election in which Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island voted for the Whigs. It was also the last time that Georgia voted against the Democrats until 1964, the last time Delaware and Louisiana did so until 1872, and the last time Florida and North Carolina did so until 1868.

The Election of 1848

While a three party election had existed in the past, during the election of 1848 the existence of a third party had a major impact on the results for the first time in history. The questions regarding slavery clearly became the single most important factor in the election for the president of the United States. Whether or not to allow slavery in the areas acquired because of the Mexican War became the major issue of the election campaign. .
During the national convention of the Whig party in June of 1848, Zachary Taylor, a war hero, was the clear favorite. He received the needed two-thirds of the votes necessary to be nominated, on the fourth ballot. Taylor said very little with regard to slavery even though he himself owned 200 slaves. He was very careful not to make any public comments for, or against, the Wilmot Proviso, which was a recent amendment that banned slavery in all lands acquired from Mexico. Taylor's supporters presented him as someone who could support both the North and the South. However, since he owned slaves himself, most people considered him to favor pro-slavery.
The Democrats nominated Lewis Cass, of Michigan, as their presidential candidate. Cass was a proponent of popular sovereignty, which meant that the people in any new territory should have the right to vote whether or not to permit slavery. Unlike Taylor, Cass was a career politician having served as governor and senator of Michigan.
Many people who opposed slavery became frustrated with the fact that neither candidate would address the issue of slavery. As a result, the Free Soil Party was formed by individuals from both the Whigs and Democrats. Martin Van Buren, a former Democratic president, was nominated as their candidate. Van Buren and the Free Soil Party ran their campaign in total opposition to the expansion of slavery. .
Although Van Buren did not carry any states, the ten percent of the total vote that he did receive was enough to ensure Taylor's victory.

Essays Related to The Election of 1848

1. In what ways was the year 1848 a turning point of European h

Taylor describes 1848 as 'opening of an era'. . The year 1848 revealed them that foreign aids was necessary. . Socially, the year 1848 started the age of masses. . However, free trade era began after 1848. . However, one should not forget, the change of form in government was due to the election of the French because they wanted to gain glory. .

2. Cavour

Following the election of Pius IX in 1846, the Piedmontese monarch allowed the congress of scientists meeting in Genoa in September to issue a series of patriotic pronouncements. . By a decree of February 8, 1848, Charles Albert complied. . The failure of 1848 also convinced him of the need for a powerf ul ally to dislodge Austria from Italy. . Following the election of Pius IX in 1846, the Piedmontese monarch allowed the congress of scientists meeting in Genoa in September to issue a series of patriotic pronouncements. . By a decree of February 8, 1848, Charles Albert complied. .

3. James Polk

Important issues of the election A. . Major Opposition of the election A. . In the election of 1848, the Wilmot Proviso was ignored by both the Whig and Democratic parties, but adopted by the Free-Soil Party. . Wisconsin entered the Union in 1848 as the 30th state. . E. 1848 - The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. .

4. Jacksonian Democracy

Such democratic sentiments were widespread during the Jacksonian Period of 1824-1848. . Jackson won the presidency during the election of 1828, thanks to a sort of political revolution. This election saw a higher voter turnout than ever before, proving that the common man was eager to exercise his newly acquired voting privileges The people of the rustic western states tended to vote for Jackson, and his election signaled the shift in power from the hands of aristocratic East to the hands of the agrarian West. . The women's rights movement was officially launched when Elizabeth Cady .

5. Whig Party

The National Republican Party gained strength after the election of 1828 in which Jackson won. . Democrat Martin Van Buren eventually won the election of 1836. . In 1840, the Whigs gained a major political victory by winning the presidential election. . In the election of 1844 Henry Clay became the Whig party candidate, but was narrowly defeated by the Democrat James K. . In 1848, the Whig's would again capture the White House with Zachary Taylor who gained popularity in the Mexican War. .

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6. Vote

Women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Motts Began the fight for women's rights to vote in 1848 and continued to do so for more than 70 years. . Since 1960 there has been a drop in voting with the 1996 elections reaching an all time low. . The18-24 age group has one of the lowest turn outs for elections. . Two: elections aren't popularity contests. . Four: In the last presidential election it came down to 300 votes in one state. .

7. Browth of German Nationalism

The nationalist movement was revived during the revolutions and the set up of the Frankfurt Parliament in 1848. . A meeting was held in Heidelberg in 1848 of German liberals and would-be reformers who wanted greater unity in Germany. They called for an election of a Vorplarliament who would be elected by the people to consider a way to create a unified Germany. The Vorparliament decided to arrange an election for a national assembly in Frankfurt. . The 1848 revolution failed and lessons had to be learnt and changes needed to be made if nationalism was to achieve unification in future. .

8. Effect of Territorial Expansion on National Unity 1800-1850

Then, the 1848 Mexican Cession further impeded national unity. . In the election of 1848, the Free Soil Party was organized as opposition to slavery in the new territories. The Whigs and Democrats decided to ignore the subject in the election. . Each different political party in 1848 signified the weakening of national unity in America, especially because the parties of this period held different views on the slavery issue. .

Third Parties – The Free Soil Party

Print shows a campaign poster for Free Soil Party candidates Martin Van Buren and Charles Francis Adams in the presidential race of 1848, under slogan "Free Soil, Free Labor, "Free Speech".

There have been a large number of “third parties” in our political history. A third party is any party other than one of the two major parties, often primarily a one-issue party such as the Prohibition Party. Sometimes more than one third party has appeared in an election. One of the most significant of these third parties was the short-lived Free Soil Party. Unlike many of the others, however, the Free Soil Party had a major effect on the politics of the day, and even changed the outcome of one presidential election.

The Free Soil Party was formed in 1848. It was a combination of the small anti-slavery Liberty Party and the “Barn Burners” of New York. The Barn Burners were a faction of the New York Democratic Party, so named because it was said they were like a farmer who would willingly burn down his barn to get rid of the rats infesting it. The New York Democratic Party at that time largely ignored the divisive issue of slavery as a matter of policy. The Barn Burners spoke out against slavery even though it might hurt or even split the Democratic Party and lose elections. This is why the regular Democrats called the probably self-destructive anti-slavery members “Barn Burners.”

Added to the Barn Burners and the Liberty Party were other anti-slavery Democrats, “Conscience Whigs” (so named because they were against slavery as a matter of principle much like the Barn Burners) and assorted independents and members of other parties. The Free Soil Party was strongest in New York, New England and the mid-west. Although the Free Soil Party never had a chance of winning the presidential election in 1848, the Free Soil Party decided the outcome of the election, and changed our history.

When the party organized for the election of 1848, they knew they lacked the national organization necessary for the campaign. They tried to compensate for some of this disadvantage by naming a well-known candidate who would attract a large number of voters to the party. They nominated for President the former President Martin Van Buren. Van Buren was still the leading figure in the New York Democratic Party, and he had long since abandoned his compromise position on slavery and come out strongly against slavery.

The key to the election in 1848 was going to be New York. With its 36 electoral votes (12.4% of the total electoral votes), New York would decide the election in a year when the race would be very close. This prediction proved to be very true. As it became apparent who was ahead in which states, it became clear that New York would decide the entire election. Whoever won New York would win the election. This made Martin Van Buren, probably the most popular politician in New York, an even more desirable candidate.

The Democrats, expecting to win, nominated Senator Lewis Cass of Michigan for President, and former Representative William O. Butler of Kentucky for Vice President. The Whigs nominated popular Mexican War Hero General Zachary Taylor for President. For Vice President, the Whigs selected Millard Fillmore. Fillmore was a former Congressman and was currently the Comptroller of New York, the only Whig elected state-wide at that time, he was very popular in New York and would help win the state for his party. The Free Soil Party nominated former President Van Buren for President, and for Vice President Charles Francis Adams of Massachusetts. Adams was a well-known anti-slavery politician and lecturer and the son and grandson of a President. Like Van Buren, his name alone attracted many votes to the ticket.

After an exciting campaign in which all three parties concentrated on New York, the Whigs won the election in New York with a plurality (less than a majority but more than anyone else) taking all 36 electoral votes, which gave them the presidential election. A majority of the New York voters were Democratic, but they split between the regular candidate (Cass) and the Free Soil candidate (Van Buren), who was the true leader of the Democratic Party in New York. Indeed, Van Buren won more votes than Cass. Van Buren took 26.4% and Cass 25% of the vote in New York. The Whigs (Taylor and Fillmore) won 47.94%, largely due to Fillmore’s presence on the ticket. But that plurality gave the Whigs the state, and the White House.

It is safe to assume that almost all of the Free Soil votes in New York would have gone to Cass had it been a two-way race between the Democrats and the Whigs. Van Buren’s presence on the ballot split the Democrats, allowing the Whigs to win the state, which in that close year gave them the victory nationally.

Zachary Taylor, the Whig President elected in 1848, firmly opposed the Compromise of 1850, the Democratic Party’s solution to the slavery issue in the newly acquired western lands then threatening to divide the nation. Had the Democrats won the election, President Cass would have supported and signed the measures immediately. But President Taylor opposed them and prevented their passage by threatening to veto them. This increased the tensions between the North and South, and the country may have been heading towards civil war but for the sudden death of President Taylor in 1850. The new President, Millard Fillmore, supported and signed the measures temporarily ending the threat of violence.

But the Free Soil Party accomplished much more than playing spoiler in the Presidential election of 1848. They elected over a dozen men to both houses of Congress, and ran another Presidential campaign in 1852. They eventually formed the corps of the Republican Party when it formed in 1854, so in a way, they are still around today.

In the next article, we will see the other accomplishments of the Free Soil Party. They elected several important men to Congress who went on to become influential senators, members of the cabinet, and even a Chief Justice of the United States.

The Free Soil Party did more than merely change the outcome of the 1848 presidential contest. It elected a dozen or more men to both houses of Congress, and elected at least one state governor, Salmon P. Chase in Ohio.

The Free Soil Party had its roots in the Liberty Party, formed in Albany, New York in 1840. The Liberty Party never became a major force. In the presidential election of 1840, it nominated James G. Birney, a “reformed” slave owner, and won only 7,000 votes. But it succeeded in placing the slavery debate on the national agenda, and in 1844 it again nominated James. G. Birney and won 62,000 votes.

In 1848, the Liberty Party could not agree on a nominee. Different factions of the party were arguing over the future of the party, and the result was the end of the Liberty Party. While Liberty Party members joined a variety of other parties, most joined the new Free Soil Party, along with New York “Barn Burners” and Conscience Whigs.

As stated earlier, the Free Soil Party nominated former President Van Buren and won over 10% of the vote in the 1848 presidential election. Of course, as we have seen, Van Buren’s presence on the ballot in New York split the Democratic majority and gave New York, and the election, to the Whig Party.

Unlike the defunct Liberty Party, the Free Soil Party grew and gained in strength and influence. They elected a number of people to the U.S. House of Representatives, but none of these men became leaders in Congress. Most served only one or two terms.

Charles Allen served two terms (1849-1853) and declined to run for re-election in 1852. He returned to Massachusetts, where he had been a judge before serving in Congress, and became the Chief Justice of the Suffolk County Superior Court (1859-1867).

Walter Booth of Connecticut served one term (1849-1851). He was defeated when he ran for re-election.

Alexander DeWitt served one term (1853-1855) as a Free Soiler, and then served two terms (1855-1857) as a Republican after that party was formed. He was defeated for re-election in 1856.

Joseph M. Root served two terms as a member of the Whig Party (1845-1849) and then, joining the Free Soil Party was re-elected to another term (1849-1851). He then joined the Republican Party and, during the Civil War, he served as a U.S. Attorney in Ohio. After the Civil War, he joined the Democratic Party.

Edward Wade, brother of Senator and “Acting Vice President” Benjamin Wade, was a Free Soil member of the House of Representatives for one term (1853-1855) before joining the Republican Party and serving another three terms in the House (1855-1861). He did not run for re-election in 1860.

The Free Soil Party also elected men to the U.S. Senate. Two of them merely filled short vacancies. Lawrence Brainerd had been the Liberty Party candidate for governor of Connecticut in 1846, 1847, 1848, 1852, and 1854. After joining the Free Soil Party, he was elected to fill a vacancy and served in the Senate from October 10, 1854 until the end of the term on March 3, 1855. Francis Gillette, also a Free Soiler from Connecticut, was elected to fill a vacancy and served in the Senate from May 24, 1854 to March 3, 1855. Neither man ran for a full term of their own.

But where the Free Soil Party was most successful was the election of three of the most powerful and respected Senators of their generation. Salmon Portland Chase, one of only three non-presidents to appear on our currency, joined the Free Soil Party and served in the U.S. Senate from 1849-1855. He was not a candidate for re-election, choosing instead to run for governor of Ohio, winning that election. He was re-elected governor of Ohio as a Republican, and was then re-elected to the Senate in 1860. He served only a few days before resigning to become Secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War, a post in which he served brilliantly. He later became Chief Justice of the United States and presided at the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson.

Charles Sumner was one of the founders of the Free Soil Party and was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts in 1851. He was re-elected to the Senate as a Republican in 1857, 1863 and 1869. He became one of the foremost leaders of the Radical Republican faction during and after the Civil War. Prior to the war, he was one of the best known and most effective leaders in the fight against slavery. One of his more emotional (and offensive) speeches caused a South Carolina Representative to enter the Senate and beat Sumner, who was sitting in his seat with his legs wrapped around the chair legs, with a brass handled cane. It was almost three years before Sumner recovered sufficiently to resume his seat in the Senate.

The last of this trio was Henry Wilson of Massachusetts. As a youth, he was apprenticed to a farmer. After serving his apprenticeship, he moved to Boston and learned the shoe-makers trade, and eventually started his own factory. He later bought and edited a major pro-abolition newspaper, The Boston Republican. Joining the Free Soil Party, he was elected to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate in 1855 by a coalition of the Free Soil, American (Know-Nothing) and Democratic Parties. He was re-elected to the Senate as a Republican in 1859, 1865, and 1871. He resigned from the Senate in 1873 to become Vice President of the United States.

The Free Soil Party voted itself out of existence in 1854, when it joined with other anti-slavery groups to form the new Republican Party. The Free Soil Party formed the core of the new party. The Republican Party adopted the Free Soil position on slavery, which said that slavery would be protected in states where it already existed, but should not be allowed to extend to new territories. In providing that all-important center piece of the Republican Party platform, the Free Soil Party continued to exist and influence the course of American history.

Election of 1848 Slavery Becomes a National Issue - History

e . the people of a territory should determine for themselves whether or not to permit slavery.

2 . In the election of 1848, the response of the Whig and Democratic parties to the rising controversy over slavery was

c . an attempt to ignore the issue by shoving it out of sight.

3 . Rapid formation of an effective state government in California seemed especially urgent because

d . there was no legal authority to suppress the violence and lawlessness that accompanied the California gold rush.

4 . The proposed direct admission of California into the Union, without passing through territorial status, was dangerously controversial because

c . California’s admission as a free state would destroy the equal balance of slave and free states in the U.S. Senate.

5 . Southerners hated the Underground Railroad and demanded a stronger federal Fugitive Slave Law especially because

a . the numbers of runaway slaves had grown dramatically.

6 . Senator Daniel Webster’s fundamental view regarding the issue of slavery expansion into the West was that

a . Congress had no authority to prohibit slavery in the territories.

7 . It appeared that the Compromise of 1850 would fail to be enacted into law when

b . President Zachary Taylor suddenly died and the new president Fillmore backed the Compromise.

8 . Under the terms of the Compromise of 1850

a . California was admitted to the Union as a free state, and the issue of slavery in Utah and New Mexico territories would be left up to popular sovereignty.

9 . The greatest winner in the Compromise of 1850 was

10 . The most significant effect of the Fugitive Slave Law, passed as part of the Compromise of 1850, was .

c . a sharp rise in northern antislavery feeling.

11 . The conflict over slavery following the election of 1852 led shortly to the

c . death of the Republican party.

12 . Southerners seeking to expand the territory of slavery undertook filibustering military expeditions to acquire

13 . The primary goal of the Treaty of Kanagawa , which Commodore Matthew Perry signed with Japan in 1854, was

e . opening Japan to American trade.

14 . The Gadsden Purchase was fundamentally designed to

b . permit the construction of a transcontinental railroad along a southern route.

15 . Northerners especially resented Douglas’s Kansas-Nebraska Act because it

c . repealed the Missouri Compromise prohibiting slavery in northern territorie

- 1. _fire-eaters_ Hotheaded southern agitators who pushed for southern interests and favored secession from the Union

- 2. _popular sovereignty_ The doctrine that the issue of slavery should be decided by the residents of a territory themselves, not by the federal government

- 3. _Free Soil party_ Antislavery political party in the election of 1848 that included moral opponents of slavery as well as white workers who disliked black competition.

- 4. _Underground Railroad_ The informal network of people who helped runaway slaves travel from the South to the safe haven of Canada

- 5. _Higher Law_ Senator William Seward’s doctrine that slavery should be excluded from the territories because it was contrary to a divine morality standing above even the Constitution

- 6. _Fugitive Slave Act_ The provision of the Compromise of 1850 that comforted southern slave-catchers and aroused the wrath of northern abolitionists

- 7. _Utah and New Mexico_ The two territories that were organized under the Compromise of 1850 with the choice of slavery left open to popular sovereignty

- 8. _Compromise of 1850_ A series of agreements between North and South that temporarily dampened the slavery controversy and led to a short-lived era of national good feelings

- 9. _Whig party_ Political party that fell apart and disappeared after losing the election of 1852

- 10. _Clayton-Buwler Treaty_ An 1850 treaty between Britain and America stating that neither country would exclusively control or fortify any Central American canal.

- 11. _Ostend Manifesto_ A top-secret dispatch, drawn up by American diplomats in Europe, that detailed a plan for seizing Cuba from Spain

- 12. _Opium War_ British military victory over China that gained Britain’s right to sell drugs in China and colonial control of the island of Hong Kong

- 13. _Wanghia Treaty_ Treaty of 1844, between the United States and China that opened China to American trade and missionary activity

- 14. _Gadsden Purchase_ Southwestern territory acquired by the Pierce administration to facilitate a southern transcontinental railroad

- 15. _Republican party_ A new political party organized as a protest against the Kansas-Nebraska Act

D. Matching People, Places, and Events

a. American naval commander who opened Japan to the West in 1854

b. Democratic presidential candidate in 1848, original proponent of the idea of popular sovereignty

c. Weak Democratic president whose pro-southern cabinet pushed aggressive expansionist schemes

d. Famous conductor on the Underground Railroad who rescued more than three hundred slaves from bondage

e. Illinois politician who helped smooth over sectional conflict in 1850, but then reignited it in 1854

f. South Carolina senator who fiercely defended southern rights and opposed compromise with the North in the debates of 1850

g. Military hero of the Mexican War who became the Whigs’ last presidential candidate in 1852

h. Whig president who nearly destroyed the Compromise of 1850 before he died in office

i. American proslavery filibusterer who seized control of Nicaragua and made himself president in the 1850s

j. American diplomat who negotiated the Treaty of Wanghia with China in 1844

k. American minister to Mexico in the 1850s who acquired land for the United States that would enable the building of a southern transcontinental railroad

l. New York senator who argued that the expansion of slavery was forbidden by a higher law

m. New Yorker who supported and signed the Compromise of 1850 after he suddenly became president that same year

n. Northern spokesman whose support for the Compromise of 1850 earned him the hatred of abolitionists

o. Former president who became the candidate of the antislavery Free Soil party in the electi

E. Putting Things in Order

- 1. _3_ A series of delicate agreements between the North and South temporarily smoothes over the slavery conflict.

- 2. _1_ A Mexican War hero is elected president, as the issue of how a deal with slavery in the territory acquired from Mexico arouses national controversy.

- 3. _2_ A spectacular growth of settlement in the far West creates demand for admission of a new free state and agitates the slavery controversy.

- 4. _5_ Stephen A. Douglas’s scheme to build a transcontinental railroad leads to repeal of the Missouri Compromise, which reopens the slavery controversy and spurs the formation of a new party.

- 5. _4_ The Pierce administration acquires a small Mexican territory to encourage a southern route for the transcontinental railroad.

F. Matching Cause and Effect

1. _G_ The evasion of the slavery issue by Whigs and Democrats in 1848

2. _D_ The California gold rush

3. _J_ The Underground Railroad

4. _A_ The Free Soil Party

5. _E_ The Compromise of 1850

6. _H_ The Fugitive Slave Law

7. _B_ The Pierce administration’s schemes to acquire Cuba

8. _F_ The Gadsden Purchase

9. _I_ Stephen Douglas’s indifference to slavery and desire for a northern railroad route

10. _C_ The Kansas-Nebraska Act

a. Was the predecessor of the antislavery Republican Party

b. Fell apart after the leaking of the Ostend Manifesto

c. Caused a tremendous northern protest and the birth of the Republican party

d. Made the issue of slavery in the Mexican Cession areas more urgent

e. Created a short-lived national mood of optimism and reconciliation

f. Heightened competition between southern and northern railroad promoters over the choice of a transcontinental route

g. Led to the formation of the new Free Soil antislavery party

h. Aroused active northern resistance to legal enforcement and prompted attempts at nullification in Massachusetts

i. Led to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, without regard for the consequences

15.4.1: Northern and Southern Perspectives

Northerners and southerners in the 1850s increasingly felt the need to defend their position on slavery, whether they opposed it or they favored it. Slavery drove the two sides apart, but not because either side had many moral concerns about the peculiar institution. Both sides saw their freedom at stake, namely, their freedom to the political and economic liberties they believed the Constitution guaranteed. Both sides saw themselves as fighting for liberty and for what they perceived to be the legacy of the American Revolution. They simply had very different viewpoints about what the Revolution had meant.

Northerners believed a vast slave power conspiracy dominated national politics. Meanwhile, southerners saw an influential abolitionist element trying to eliminate slavery all over the country. Few people on either side fell into these extremist categories. But, northern and southern spokesmen felt compelled to criticize the other side and defend their position. As tensions mounted toward the end of the decade, people began to wonder if they could ever mend their differences. In 1858, William H. Seward outlined the notion of irrepressible conflict, in which the nation would have to choose to be all slave or all free. Northerners and southerners nonetheless did not necessarily think their differences would lead to a war.

The Northern Perspective

Northerners increasingly turned to ideas about free labor to explain the benefits of their society. A free labor system in which employers paid workers wages led to economic growth. New Yorker William Evarts suggested that labor was &ldquothe source of all our wealth, of all our progress, of all our dignity and value.&rdquo The system also provided opportunity for social mobility. The goal for most northerners was not great wealth, but economic independence. If they worked hard enough, they could improve their lives and enter the ranks of the middle class. Pennsylvanian Thaddeus Stevens recorded how &ldquothe middling classes who own the soil, and work it with their hands are the main support of every free government.&rdquo In the nineteenth century, most northerners also believed progress came from developing the economy, increasing social mobility, and spreading democratic institutions.

To the proponents of free labor, slavery robbed labor, both slave and free, of its dignity. Slavery denied workers social mobility. Since workers had no incentive, they became less productive. Economically speaking, they believed slavery led to mass poverty. However, northerners worried more about the effect a slave-based economy had on non-slaveholders than on slaves. They frequently commented on the lack of opportunity for poor whites to improve their social and economic standing. From the northern perspective, people born poor in the South remained poor. Northerners believed all the best qualities about a free labor society, such as hard work, frugality, and a spirit of industry, were lacking in the South. Many northerners, especially the Republicans, sought to create a free labor system in the South. They looked for government action to promote free labor however, southern dominance of national political institutions, referred to sometimes as slave power, prevented that option.

The Southern Perspective

Southerners found the criticism of their lifestyle unwarranted. They believed courtesy, hospitality, and chivalry were the hallmarks of their way of life. When antislavery advocates became more vocal in the 1830s, southerners began to highlight the positive nature of slavery. Thomas R. Dew, a professor at William and Mary, relied on biblical and historical evidence to suggest how slavery benefited the master and the slave. To justify why only blacks became slaves in the South, Dew suggested the institution helped Africans become more civilized. Moreover, enslaving blacks brought greater liberty and equality to whites. By the 1850s, southern theorists like George Fitzhugh focused even more on racial inferiority to justify slavery. Fitzhugh argued in favor of the paternalistic nature of slavery, noting that &ldquoHe the Negro is but a grown up child, and must be governed as a child, not as a lunatic or criminal. The master occupies toward him the place of parent or guardian.&rdquo

To the proponents of slavery, free labor did not benefit anyone. Alluding to the paternalistic nature of slavery, Virginian Edmond Ruffin suggested northern employers held their workers &ldquounder a much more stringent and cruel bondage, and in conditions of far greater&hellipsuffering than our negro slaves.&rdquo Slaves, moreover, did not have to worry about securing food, clothing, or shelter, since their masters provided those commodities. James Henry Hammond, basing his justification for slavery on the so-called mudsill theory, further suggested the benefits of slavery for southern whites. All societies had, he noted, a &ldquomudsill class&rdquo or working class. In the South, slaves performed the menial and thankless tasks, leaving whites to pursue the fruits of civilization. In the North, the wage labor system meant whites performed the tasks of slaves and therefore had no real opportunity for advancement.

The Panic of 1857

The debate between the North and the South intensified after a financial panic hit the nation in 1857. American exports of grain increased between 1854 and 1856 because of the Crimean War in Europe. When the war ended, the market slumped. The war also pushed investors in Europe to sell off their American stocks and bonds. Both developments hurt the American economy. For much of the decade, economic growth caused a rise in western land prices, the overextension of the railroads, and risky loans by banks. When grain exports declined and European investment stopped, American banks began to fail. By the end of the year, hundreds of thousands of northern workers lost their jobs. Relief efforts helped the jobless to survive the winter and prevent a much-feared class war. By spring, the economy was on its way to recovery.

Southerners for the most part escaped the economic downturn. So, they boasted about the superiority of the plantation economy. Many even suggested cotton saved the North from financial ruin. Frustrated northerners blamed the South, with its constant demand for low tariffs, for the crisis. After the panic, a coalition of northern Republicans and Democrats pushed for an increase in the tariff, as well as land grant measures for farmers, the railroads, and colleges, to help prevent future economic problems. Southern obstruction of these efforts only made the sectional tensions worse. Southerners saw the measures as a way to promote a federallybacked antislavery agenda northerners, on the other hand, saw the slave power conspiracy at work.

Election of 1848 Slavery Becomes a National Issue - History

SUMMARY. The Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when South Carolina troops fired on the federal Fort Sumter in Charleston. That momentous event, however, was but one important milestone in the conflict over slavery in America. It is probably safe to say that the struggle began in 1619 when the first slaves were offloaded from a Spanish ship in the Jamestown, Virginia colony. The fate of those early slaves remains obscure, but we do know that within 50 years, permanent lifetime slavery for African-Americans brought to America was established. Protests against slavery began in the late 1600s when the Quaker church condemned slavery, yet the practice continued through the American Revolution. After 1776, as many of the states considered the meaning of Jefferson's words that “all men are created equal,” however, the elimination of slavery began in the North. Slavery was also prohibited in territories belonging to the new nation under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

After 1800 the cotton economy in the South gave new life to the institution of slavery as slave labor became ever more valuable. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 up held the balance between slave states and free states while prohibiting slavery north of the 36°30' parallel. That compromise limited debate at the national level for 30 years. By 1830, however, the growing abolitionist movement gave pause to defenders of slavery in the southern states, and they sought ways to inhibit the federal power to outlaw the practice. The nullification crisis of 1832, ostensibly over tariffs, had a hidden agenda, namely, the ability of states to nullify federal laws that might be applied to slavery. When the tariff effort failed, it became apparent that the next logical defensive measure would be secession.

While discussion of the slavery issue in the United States Congress was muted by various gag laws, the conflict simply would not disappear. The accession of Texas prompted more debate over slavery, and when the annexation of Texas triggered war with Mexico, the resulting addition of a huge new block of territory in the Southwest opened the issue yet again. In anticipation of attempts to block slavery in the new Territories, delegates of southern states met in Nashville in 1850 to discuss secession. Although moderate voices prevailed, the idea of secession was now a distinct possibility, openly discussed. When the California gold rush made that territory ready for admission as a state, Congress was required to formally address the issue of slavery, thus instituting one of the great debates in American history, debate over the Compromise of 1850.

To this day, there are those who claim that the American Civil War was not about slavery. They say was about tariffs, or states' rights, or something to do with the industrial North and the agricultural South, or immigration patterns that differed significantly between the northern and southern states. That issue has been addressed in detail by historians, and it is safe to say that the consensus has concluded that without slavery, there would have been no Civil War. The documentary evidence to support that conclusion, including the Constitution of the Confederate States of America written in 1861, makes it clear that the purpose of secession, which triggered the war, had the purpose of preserving slavery in the South. And if the issue was states' rights, the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession shows clearly that South Carolina, the first southern state to secede, was on the opposite side of that issue.

States' Rights, Popular Sovereignty and Slavery

Causes of the Civil War: Myth and Reality

As mentioned above, although the causes of the Civil War are still debated, it is difficult to imagine the Civil War occurring without recognizing the impact slavery had on the difficulties between the North and the South. For a time the tariff and other issues divided North and South, but there is practically no mention of any of them in the secession documents or in the great debates of the 1850s. Some argue that it was an issue of states’ rights, but none of the secession documents argue their case on those grounds. Indeed, in the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession, the first to be adopted and a model for later ones, part of South Carolina's justification for secession is that Northern states had attempted to annul the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Those northern states were, in effect, exercising their states’ rights, but South Carolina did not approve of their action.

Many Americans nevertheless believe that the Civil War was only incidentally connected with slavery. That view is difficult to reconcile with the known facts based upon existing documents from the Civil War era. Virtually every major political issue of a controversial nature between 1850 and 1860 deals with the issue of slavery. Furthermore, the issue had been contentious since before the American Revolution.

During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, there was much discussion of slavery that resulted in the so-called 3/5 Compromise. Since the institution of slavery was dying out in parts of the country during the Revolutionary era, it is understandable that the framers of the Constitution hoped that slavery would die a natural death. Slave owners such as a Washington, Jefferson and George Mason all understood the dangers involved in the continuation of slavery in the nation. Indeed, during the Constitutional Convention, on August 22, 1787, George Mason made a speech in which he, in effect, predicted the Civil War because of slavery. As James Madison's notes recorded, Mason argued as follows during the debate on the slave trade:

“The present question concerns not the importing States alone but the whole Union. The evil of having slaves was experienced during the late war. Had slaves been treated as they might have been by the Enemy, they would have proved dangerous instruments in their hands. … Maryland and Virginia he said had already prohibited the importation of slaves expressly. North Carolina had done the same in substance. All this would be in vain if South Carolina and Georgia be at liberty to import. The Western people are already calling out for slaves for their new lands, and will fill that Country with slaves if they can be got through South Carolina and Georgia. Slavery discourages arts and manufactures. The poor despise labor when performed by slaves. They prevent the immigration of Whites, who really enrich and strengthen a Country. They produce the most pernicious effect on manners. Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of heaven on a Country. As nations can not be rewarded or punished in the next world they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects providence punishes national sins, by national calamities. He lamented that some of our Eastern brethren had from a lust of gain embarked in this nefarious traffic. As to the States being in possession of the Right to import, this was the case with many other rights, now to be properly given up. He held it essential in every point of view that the General Government should have power to prevent the increase of slavery. [Emphasis added]”

Because the creation of the Constitution was a supreme challenge, the founding fathers were not prepared to deal with the slavery issue more directly. The invention of the cotton gin and the booming Southern cotton industry which followed, further negated hopes for a gradual diminution of slavery in America. The Constitution did, however, permit Congress to ban the importation of slaves 20 years after adoption of the Constitution. That measure was carried out in 1808.

Although the Constitution gave the federal government the right to abolish the international slave trade, the government had no power to regulate or destroy the institution of slavery where it already existed. Nonetheless, Congress prevented the extension of slavery to certain territories in the Northwest Ordinance (which carried over to the period after the Constitution) and the Missouri Compromise of 1820. So long as both North and South had opportunities for expansion, compromise had been possible. Traditionally, slavery, where it existed, had been kept out of American politics. The result was that no practical program could be devised for its elimination in the Southern states. Until the 1850s, however, Congress was understood to have the power to set conditions under which territories could become states and to forbid slavery in new states.

The issue of the admission of Missouri to the Union in 1820 drew the attention of Congress to slavery again. Although attempts to eliminate slavery in the state failed, the Missouri Compromise allowed Missouri to come in as a slave state, with Maine entering as a free state at the same time, thus maintaining the balance between free states and slave states in the Senate. Slavery was prohibited north of the southern boundary of Missouri from that time forward. The restriction was agreeable to the South in part because the area north of Missouri was still known as the “great American desert.”

The abolition movement brought new attention to slavery beginning about 1830. When the moral issue of slavery was raised by men like William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, further compromise became more difficult. Documents began to appear describing the brutal conditions of slavery. Nevertheless, abolitionism never achieved majority political status in the non-slave states. Since most Americans accepted the existence of slavery where it was legal (and constitutionally protected), the controversy between North and South focused on the issue of slavery in the territories.

The issue might have been resolved by extending the Missouri Compromise to the Pacific Ocean to cover the new territory added in the Mexican Cession. However, since the movement to prohibit slavery in the territories was stronger in 1850 than it had been in 1820, the political forces were unable to handle it as smoothly as in 1820. Thus another sort of compromise was needed, one that shifted responsibility from the national government to the territories themselves. That novel concept was known as “popular sovereignty”—letting the people in the new territories decide for themselves whether to have slavery.

The idea of popular sovereignty had two things going for it. First, it seemed democratic. Why not let the people decide for themselves whether or not they want slavery? (Of course participation in that decision was never extended to the slave population.) Second, it was compatible with the notion of “states’ rights.” The doctrine contained a major flaw, however it ignored the concerns of those who tolerated slavery only on the assumption, as Lincoln and others put it, that slavery “was in the course of ultimate extinction.” As the abolition and free soil advocates saw it, allowing slavery to go into the territories was certain to postpone that day.

The net result of the popular sovereignty approach was that the federal government, in attempting to evade responsibility by shifting it to the people of the territories themselves, merely heightened the crisis. By 1850 slavery had become a “federal case,” and despite the best efforts of compromisers like Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas, the tactic of popular sovereignty backfired. The country drifted closer to war.

The Constitution gave the federal government the right to abolish the international slave trade, but no power to regulate or destroy the institution of slavery where it already existed. Nonetheless, Congress had prevented the extension of slavery to certain territories in the Missouri Compromise of 1820. So long as both the free North and the slave South had some opportunities for expansion, compromise had been possible. Traditionally, existing slavery had been kept out of American politics, with the result that no practical program could be devised for its elimination in the southern states. Congress, however, had the power to set the conditions under which territories became states and to forbid slavery in new states.

In the 1840s, as the result of expansion, Congress faced the problem of determining the status of slavery in the territories taken from Mexico. While prosperity came from territorial expansion, sectional harmony did not. When the United States gained 500,000 square miles of new land in 1848 (over 1,000,000 counting Texas), the nation again had to decide whether slavery was to be allowed in the territories of the United States. The Constitution prevented federal control of slavery in states where it existed, but gave Congress control over the territories. That was where slavery’s opponents could combat the institution they deplored.

Beginning with the Great Land Ordinances of the 1780s the United States had tried to govern its territories in a way which would be consistent with American practice (which unfortunately included neglect of the rights of the indigenous populations of Indians and others.) The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which covered five future states, established federal territorial policy. As was discussed earlier, had that policy been extended to future territories, a great deal of grief might have been spared, for the Northwest Ordinance prohibited slavery in the Old Northwest.

The acquisition of new territory from France, the Louisiana Purchase, precipitated a crisis when the subject of slavery in that territory came to a head over the issue of the admission of Missouri. The Missouri Compromise in 1820 resolved the issue for the time, but only postponed the crisis—as Jefferson and many others recognized at the time. The issue reemerged in 1848 after the Mexican-American War, and another crisis over the handling of slavery in the territories developed. To begin with, absent laws (such as the Northwest Ordinance) prohibiting slavery, nothing prevented slave owners from taking their "property" into the territories. Thus when the population became large enough for the territory to begin thinking of statehood, slavery had to be considered when the people in the territories wrote their constitutions and applied to Congress for admission. Since those state constitutions were an essential step on the road to statehood, Congress had some control over the process through approval of the proposed constitutions. Thus the issue became a national one and not one of states’ (or territorial) rights.

Since abolitionism never reached majority status in the non-slave states, and since most Americans accepted the existence of slavery where it was legal (and constitutionally protected), the chief controversy between North and South became the issue of slavery in the territories. The issue might have been resolved by extending the Missouri Compromise to the Pacific to cover the new territory, but since the movement to prohibit slavery in the territories was much stronger in 1850 than it had been in 1820, the political forces were unable handle it as smoothly as in 1820. Thus another sort of compromise was needed, one that shifted responsibility from the national government to the territories themselves. That novel concept was known as "popular sovereignty."

The idea of popular sovereignty had two things going for it. First, it seemed democratic. Why not let the people decide for themselves whether or not they want slavery? (Of course participation in that decision was never extended to the slave population.) Second, it seemed acceptable to Americans for whom "states’ rights" was the condition on which they continued to tolerate federal government control over local issues. The doctrine contained a major flaw, however, in that it ignored the concerns of Americans who continued to accept slavery only on the assumption, as Lincoln and others put it, that it "was in the course of ultimate extinction." Allowing slavery to go into the territories was certain, as the abolition and free soil advocates saw it, to postpone that day.

The net result of popular sovereignty was that the federal government, in attempting to evade responsibility by shifting it to the people of the territories themselves, merely heightened the crisis. For a time some politicians comforted themselves with the notion that slavery could not exist in any territory absent legislation to support it. (Douglas’s "Freeport Doctrine," for example.) Such claims satisfied neither supporters nor opponents of slavery. By 1850 slavery had become a "federal case," and despite the best efforts of compromisers like Clay and Douglas, the tactic of popular sovereignty backfired, and the country drifted closer to war.

The 1840s, the Mexican-American War and the Wilmot Proviso

Following the annexation of Texas as a slave state, the United States declared war against Mexico in 1846. Realizing that the war might bring additional new territory to the United States, antislavery groups wanted to make sure that slavery would not expand because of American victory. Congressman David Wilmot opened the debate by introducing a bill in Congress that would have banned all African-Americans, slave or free, from whatever land the United States took from Mexico, thus preserving the area for white small farmers.

The so-called “Wilmot Proviso” passed the House of Representatives but failed in the Senate, where John C. Calhoun argued that Congress had no right to bar slavery from any territory. Others tried to find compromise ground between Wilmot and Calhoun. Polk suggested extending the 36-30 line of the Missouri Compromise to the Pacific coast. In 1848 Lewis Cass proposed to settle the issue by "popular sovereignty"—organizing the territories without mention of slavery and letting local settlers decide whether theirs would be a free or slave territory. It seemed a democratic way to solve the problem and it got Congress off the hook. This blend of racism and antislavery won great support in the North though it was debated frequently, however, it never passed. The battle over the Proviso foreshadowed an even more urgent controversy once the peace treaty with Mexico was signed.

Popular Sovereignty and the Election of 1848

The North rejected the extension of the Missouri Compromise line as too beneficial to southern interests, but many supported popular sovereignty. The Democrats, who almost split North and South over slavery, nominated Lewis Cass, who urged "popular sovereignty." Webster was the natural choice of Whigs, but the war hero was too appealing. Zachary Taylor avoided taking a stand but promised no executive interference with congressional legislation. Discontented Democrats (called "barnburners") walked out and joined with old members of the Liberty Party to form the Free-Soil Party, which nominated Martin Van Buren—who favored the Wilmot Proviso,—and Charles Francis Adams. Popular sovereignty found support among antislavery forces, who assumed that the territorial settlers would have a chance to prohibit slavery before it could get established, but it was unacceptable to those who wanted a definite limit placed on the expansion of slavery. President Polk’s fears were realized when Taylor won with a minority of the popular vote.

The California Gold Rush

When gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill, thousands of Americans began flocking to California’s gold fields in 1848-1849, creating demands for a territorial government. There were few slaves in California, though more than in New Mexico and Utah combined. But slavery was not an admission issue, though California passed “sojourner” laws that allowed slaveholders to bring slaves and keep them for a time. Still, the question of slavery in the territories had to be faced California merely precipitated the crisis. Taylor proposed to settle the controversy by admitting California and New Mexico as states without the prior organization of a territorial government, even though New Mexico had too few people to be a state. The white South reacted angrily. Planters objected that they had not yet had time to settle the new territories, which would certainly ban slavery if they immediately became states. A convention of the Southern states was called to meet at Nashville, perhaps to declare secession. Only nine states sent representatives, and although nothing was formally decided, the Nashville Convention forebode greater problems.

No one questioned the right of a state to be free or slave. Californians submitted an antislavery constitution with their request to admission. Southerners were outraged because the admission of California would give the free states a majority and control of the Senate. Once again, Henry Clay rose to offer a compromise. He proposed the admission of California as a free state the remainder of the cession territory be organized without mention of slavery a Texas-New Mexico boundary controversy be settled in New Mexico’s favor, but Texas be compensated with a federal assumption of its state debt the slave trade (but not slavery) be abolished in Washington, D.C. and a more stringent fugitive slave law be enacted and vigorously enforced. Although Taylor resisted the compromise until his death, his successor Millard Fillmore supported what became known as the Compromise of 1850.

THE COMPROMISE OF 1850 -- The Last Best Hope

After the death of Calhoun and departure of Webster and Clay, young Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois took over. Breaking the compromise down into separate measures, which allowed members to vote against what they didn’t like and for the rest, Douglas brought the seven-month-long debate to a successful conclusion. Congress adopted each of Clay's proposals as a separate measure and changed them slightly—for example, the Democrats extended popular sovereignty to the Utah territory. The Compromise admitted California as a free state, organized the territories of New Mexico and Utah on the basis of popular sovereignty, retracted the borders of Texas in return for assumption of the state's debt, and abolished the slave trade in the District of Columbia. The most controversial provision created a strong Fugitive Slave Law, denying suspected runaways any rights of self-defense, and requiring Northerners to help enforce slavery. The South accepted the Compromise of 1850 as conclusive and backed away from threats of secession. In the North, the Democratic party gained popularity by taking credit for the compromise, and the Whigs found it necessary to cease their criticism of it.

1850 Compromise: The History

The debate over the compromise of 1850 has been called the last great Clay, Calhoun and Webster performance. Henry Clay was back in the Senate with his two fellow members of the "Great Triumvirate" and he began a debate by introducing various resolutions designed to achieve a compromise. Issue the three men made passionate, memorable speeches in defense of their positions. John C Calhoun was the spokesman for southern, proslavery advocates. Aging like his two colleagues, Calhoun was ill during the debates, and his speeches were delivered by Senator Mason of Virginia a grandson of George Mason. Calhoun's major point was an argument for federal guarantees for slavery in the territories.

Henry Clay, although a slaveholder, was from Kentucky, a border state where the defense of slavery was a far less vital matter than in the deeper South. Daniel Webster from New England was opposed to slavery, but was even more strongly opposed to the idea of secession, declaring that the notion of a "peaceable secession" was impossible. The three Berry and orators also heard powerful rhetoric from abolitionist Senator William Seward of New York who declared that there was a "higher law" than the Constitution that bound him to oppose the expansion of slavery. The idea of the higher law was meant as a moral argument that overrode the constitutional issue. Because there were portions of the proposed law that were unacceptable to significant blocs of voters, after months of debate tea law had not passed.

The deaths of President Zachary Taylor led to the breaking of the deadlock over the issue of slavery in the new territory that including California. President Fillmore asked Daniel Webster to return his former position as Secretary of State. Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, later known as the "Little giant," assume leadership of the debate and, realizing that the measure could not pass as designed, broke it into five separate bills and guided each one through Congress separately. In that matter to people who were bitterly opposed to certain portions of the proposed compromise could vote against them, but the combined negatives were not sufficient to block the five separate bills. After seven months of debate the five laws that made up the Compromise of 1850 provided for the following:

The immediate result of the 1850 compromise was euphoric acceptance. Many Americans considered the legislation a "final solution" to the slavery issue. Radical northern abolitionists, however, were not satisfied that slavery might still continue under the compromise laws. In the end the compromise was bound not to be a permanent solution as both sides rejected some of the other's conditions everybody was opposed to at least part of it. Yet the end of the bitter debate did result in the reconciliation of some politicians would become estranged over the issue. A relative period of peace and harmony reigned in the United States Congress, though it was not to last very long.

The new 1850 fugitive slave law struck fear in the hearts of northern blacks and encouraged more southerners to try to recover escaped slaves. Once the law went into effect slaves who had lived in the North as free men for long periods of time suddenly found themselves liable to being returned to their former owners. Abolitionists often interfered with the enforcement of the law, and such efforts exacerbated sectional feelings. The sight of blacks being carried off to slavery outraged northerners, and southerners resented the northerners' refusal to obey the law. Some of the northern states passed personal liberty lowers to protect free blacks, but the Fugitive Slave Law forced many northerners to experience the heartlessness of slavery.

One example of the trouble caused by the Fugitive Slave Act took place in Christiana, Pennsylvania in 1851. Fugitive slaves from nearby Maryland escaped to a farm where a Freeman protected runaways. The slave owner pursued the fugitives and was killed in a gun battle. The case was tried in a federal court and no one was convicted, but the Christiana incident, sometimes referred to as the "first shots fired in the Civil War," cause further bitterness, both sides.

Although some southerners objected to certain provisions of 1850 compromise, because the law had been duly passed by Congress they were obliged to obey it or look toward the radical action of secession. The South then divided into two camps, those opposed to and those favoring secession. Those two sides would carry their arguments forward throughout the 1850s.


In the weeks of Senatorial debate which preceded the enactment of the Compromise of 1850 a range of attitudes was expressed. Clay took the lead early in speaking for the resolutions he had introduced The Great Compromiser advised the North against insisting on the terms of the Wilmot Proviso and the South against thinking seriously of disunion. Calhoun, who was dying, asked Senator James M. Mason of Virginia to read his gloomy speech for him. After explaining why the “bonds of sentiment” between North and South had been progressively weakened, Calhoun went on to say how he thought the Union could be saved. His words offered little real hope. Three days later, he was followed by Daniel Webster, who agreed with Clay that there could be no peaceable secession. Webster’s attempt to restrain Northern extremists brought him abuse from anti-slavery men in his own section where formerly he had been so admired. Extreme views were expressed on both sides, but the passage of the compromise measures showed that the moderate spirit of Clay and Webster was still dominant


The Compromise of 1850 robbed the political parties of distinctive appeals and contributed to voter apathy and disenchantment. Although a colorless candidate, Democrat Franklin Pierce won the election of 1852 over Winfield Scott, the candidate of a Whig party which was on the verge of collapse from internal divisions. Once the Compromise of 1850 seemed to have settled the territorial controversy, Whigs and Democrats looked for new issues. The Democrats claimed credit for the nation's prosperity and promised to defend the compromise. Whigs, however, could find no popular issue and began to fight among themselves. Their candidate in 1852, Winfield Scott, lost in a landslide to Democrat Franklin Pierce, a colorless nonentity.

Pierce was known as a “doughface,” a northerner with souther sympathies, friendly to slavery. The Whigs were divided among those willing to compromise on territorial issues and the free soilers who opposed the extension of slavery by any means. The Republican Party, which came into existence during the Pierce administration, capitalized on the decline of the Whig Party, which was divided over slavery. In 1852 the tradition of small third parties continued with the Free Soil Party, who nominated John Hale, but their minimal support did not affect the election.

Free Soilers and Free Blacks . Personal liberty laws in North and Black laws in North and South create all kinds of restrictions on free Blacks in lower northern states: marriage, property, voting military service all restricted. Still, Fugitive Slave searches anger many northerners interference angers Southerners. Movement for freedom was rarely a movement for equality for Blacks (see Lincoln) some political parties went farther than others: Free Soilers not as liberal as Liberty Party Anti-slavery Whigs few parties clean on objectives most Free Soilers, Republicans were ambivalent on black rights.

Uncle Tom's Cabin. The publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" also heightened sectional tensions. Like other northerners, the Fugitive Slave Law stirred Stowe's conscience, and her novel drove home the evils of slavery. While Stowe knew little about slavery and her picture of plantation life was distorted, her story had sympathetic characters and it was told with sensitivity. She was the first white American writer to look at slaves as people.

The characters in the book include Tom, an intelligent, pious and courageous slave the evil slave-owner Simon Legree Augustine St. Claire, a kind owner his sensitive daughter Eva who admires Tom the runaway slave Eliza and her husband George and other provide a melodramatic but moving picture of “Life Among the Lowly”—which is the subtitle.

When Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe, he is said to have remarked: "So you're the little lady who wrote the book that started this big war." Apocryphal or not, the book had a big impact on attitudes both North and South.

Franklin Pierce as President: The Distraction of Foreign Affairs

The “Young America Movement.” Foreign affairs offered a distraction from the growing sectional hostility. Sympathies were extended to European revolutionaries in revolt against autocratic governments. Some Americans dreamed of territorial acquisitions in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean as a means of spreading democracy. Young America was a volatile combination of altruistic motives and nationalist ideas, related to the concept of Manifest Destiny. Although the ideas bore little fruit in the 1850s, they did provide a diversion.

The need for better communication with California produced the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty. It gave the United States and Britain joint control of any canal built through the isthmus. The appeal of an Isthmian Canal was strong, but the engineering required for such a feat was still several decades away.

In response to growing pressure from various southern quarters for the annexation of Cuba to offset the addition of California, American ministers to Great Britain, France and Spain met in Ostend, Belgium, and drafted a proposal outlining the purchase of Cuba from Spain. It proposed to purchase the island for $120 million suggested taking it by force if Spain refused. The Ostend Manifesto was published and drew immediate criticism on northerners, who saw it as a way to expand slavery.

One initiative that did bear fruit was the visit of Commodore Matthew C. Perry to Japan. In 1852 Perry sailed into Tokyo harbor with four American warships, presented Japanese officials a letter from President Fillmore proposing the initiation of formal relations between the United States and Japan. Perry returned to Japan two years later, and a formal trade and friendship agreement between the two nations was signed, thus beginning a long and sometimes troubled relationship between the two countries.

One other foreign affairs matter was settled in 1853. As plans were being drawn up for a transcontinental railroad, one possible route included territory to the south of the states of Arizona and New Mexico. Ambassador to Mexico James Gadsden negotiated the deal, and a swath of land from Las Cruces, New Mexico to Yuma, Arizona, that included what would become the city of Tucson, was purchased from Mexico. The purchase completed the territory that would become known as the "lower 48 states."

The Rise of Stephen A. Douglas, the “Little Giant.”

Senator Stephen Douglas saw the needs of the nation in a broad perspective. He advocated territorial expansion and popular sovereignty. He opposed slavery, but did not find it morally repugnant. Generally, he did not think it was necessary for the nation to expend its energy on the slave issue. Both parties endorsed the Compromise of 1850 in the 1852 campaign, but the Whig party was disintegrating and proslavery southerners were coming to dominate the Democratic party.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act Raises a Storm

In 1854, Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas, anxious to expand American settlement and commerce across the northern plains while promoting his own presidential ambitions, pushed an act through Congress organizing the territories of Kansas and Nebraska on the basis of popular sovereignty. This repeal of the long-standing Missouri Compromise, along with publication of the "Ostend Manifesto" urging the United States acquisition of Cuba, convinced an increasing number of Northerners that Pierce's Democratic administration was dominated by pro-southern sympathizers, if not conspirators.

In 1854, Stephen Douglas introduced a bill to organize the Kansas and Nebraska territories. The area had a growing population and Douglas hoped to speed construction of a transcontinental railroad through the territory. Southerners balked because they wanted the railroad farther south and they feared Nebraska would become a free state. These areas were north of the Missouri Compromise line and had been off-limits to slavery since 1820, but Douglas proposed to apply popular sovereignty to them in an effort to get southern votes and avoid another controversy over territories. Douglas expected to revive the spirit of Manifest Destiny for the benefit of the Democratic party and for his own benefit when he ran for president in 1860. The South insisted, and Douglas agreed to add an explicit repeal of the Missouri Compromise to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, thus provoking a storm of protest in the North, where it was felt that the South had broken a long-established agreement. The Whig party, unable to decide what position to take on the Kansas-Nebraska Act, disintegrated. The Democratic party suffered mass defections in the North. In the congressional elections of 1854, coalitions of "anti-Nebraska" candidates swept the North, and the Democrats became virtually the only political party in the South.

In the midst of this uproar, President Pierce made an effort to buy, or seize, Cuba from Spain, but northern anger at any further extension of slavery forced the president to drop the idea.

Nevertheless, the bill passed and the nation took a giant step toward disunion. Douglas introduces bill to organize the Kansas and Nebraska territories based on "popular sovereignty" or squatter principle. As it allowed for slavery in all new territories, it implicitly repealed the Missouri Compromise. Douglas not especially against slavery.

Douglas's rationale for his support of the bill had numerous aspects. For starters, he b believe strongly in the principle of self-government for the states. It is worth remembering here that until the amendments passed following the Civil War altered the relationship between the federal government and the states, the states still recalled the time when they consider themselves to be sovereign, independent nations under the Articles of Confederation. Second, and perhaps less honorable, Senator Douglas needed Southern support for the 1856 presidential election. Furthermore, he believed that geography itself would limit the extension of slavery by natural means, without federal government intervention. He strongly supported development of a transcontinental railroad, and he hoped that the terminus would be in Eastern Illinois. The bottom line of Douglas's position was most likely that he was a strong supporter of the principle of Manifest Destiny.

When finally passed the Kansas Nebraska act turned out to be a victory for the South. As a result, the Democrats lost most of their support in the north, and they became a southern party. The act repealed the Missouri Compromise (the Supreme Court would have the final say on that), which Northern Democrats published a document, the "Appeal of the Independent Democrats," which called the act a "gross violation of a sacred pledge." According to Horace Greeley, the Kansas Nebraska act created more abolitionists than William Lloyd Garrison had achieved in 30 years. In the eighteen fifty-four elections, the Democrats lost significantly because of the "disaster" of the Kansas Nebraska act. The Democrats lost most of their seats in the North and became a southern party.

In 1854 a former slave named Anthony Burns was captured in Boston under the provisions of the fugitive slave law. Mob attacks the prison where he was held and federal troops arrived. The supreme court upheld the primacy of the Fugitive Slave Law, calling it constitutional, and the state personal freedom laws did not in effect nullify the federal act.

An Appeal to Nativism: The Know-Nothing Episode

As the Whig Party collapsed, a new party, the Know-Nothings, or American Party, gained in popularity. Part adherents were identified as the Young America Movement . The Know-Nothing party especially appealed to evangelical Protestants, who opposed Catholics, largely because of the huge influx of Catholic immigrants from Ireland triggered by the famine of the 1840s. The Know-Nothings—the name derived from their pledge to say "I know nothing" when asked about the policies of their party—also picked up support from former Whigs and Democrats disgusted with “politics as usual.” In 1854, the American party suddenly took political control of Massachusetts and spread rapidly across the nation. They generated anti-black feelings in the North, and their antislavery members defected to the newly formed Republican Party, which came into existence in 1854. In less than two years, the Know-Nothings collapsed for reasons that are still somewhat obscure. Most probably, Northerners worried less about immigration as it slowed down, and turned their attention to the slavery issue.

In 1855, a rising politician in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, who had served one term in the House of Representatives from1846 to 1848, was trying to keep his political career alive. Formerly a Whig, he joined the Republican Party and condemned the Kansas-Nebraska Act. It's worth noting that when he ran for the Senate from Illinois in 1858 and for president in 1860, the issue most heavily debated was that of slavery in the territories. Attempts to remove slavery where it already existed would have to wait until after the Civil War. The country remained divided during the latter part of the 1850s the wounds were becoming too deep to heal.

Kansas and the Rise of the Republicans

Formed in protest of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Republican party adopted a firm position opposing any further extension of slavery. Election fraud and violence in Kansas discredited the principle of popular sovereignty and strengthened Republican appeal in the North. The Republican party emerged as a coalition of former Whigs, Know-Nothings, Free-Soilers, and disenchanted, anti-slavery Democrats by emphasizing the sectional struggle and by appealing strictly to northern voters. Republicans promised to save the West as a preserve for white, small farmers.

Events in Kansas helped the Republicans. Abolitionists and proslavery forces raced into the territory to gain control of the territorial legislature. Proslavery forces won and passed laws that made it illegal even to criticize the institution of slavery. Very soon, however, those who favored free soil became the majority and set up a rival government. President Pierce recognized the proslavery legislature, while the Republicans attacked it as the tyrannical instrument of a minority. In Kansas, fighting broke out, and the Republicans used "Bleeding Kansas" to win more Northern voters.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act compelled former Whigs and antislavery northern Democrats to join new parties. The American, or Know Nothing Party, was founded by Nativists who blamed the recent flood of Catholic immigrants for rising crime, drunkenness, and poverty. The party enjoyed support in both the North and South because it was flexible on the slavery issue. More significant was the Republican party, a party dedicated to opposing the expansion of slavery. It was a sectional party that appealed to growing antislavery sentiments in the North. It was brought about by it's opposition to the Kansas Nebraska act, which he regarded as an outrage

Kansas became a testing ground for the ideal of popular sovereignty, which was at the heart of the politics of the slavery question. The Kansas Nebraska act was ambiguous about the time when the vote on slavery would be held, and who in Kansas would be permitted to vote. Both Northerners and Southerners tried to influence the situation. Groups of antislavery settlers came from New England to try to influence the vote against slavery. Proslavery Missourians crossed the border to vote in the Kansas elections. The result of the tension led to what was a near civil war in Kansas. The Franklin Pierce administration in Washington did nothing to help the situation, refusing to help restore order to the territory, although they did warn the border ruffians from Missouri to disperse. The Pottawatomie Massacre led by John Brown occurred on May 24 and 25. At last territorial governor Geary was able to obtain aid from federal troops, who dispersed the border ruffians. In all, 200 people were killed, and millions of dollars in property was destroyed.

The reaction in Congress to the situation in Kansas was sharp. Senator Sumner of Massachusetts insisted that Kansas be admitted as a free state. He gave a harsh speech called his &ldquoCrime Against Kansas&rdquo speech, a crude and offensive tirade that focused on a senator from South Carolina. Preston Brooks, a South Carolina congressman, came onto the Senate floor and thrashed Senator Sumner with a cane, injuring him severely. The senator was absent from the Senate for three years, and his vacant chair became a symbol for the antislavery forces in Congress. Kansas was finally admitted to the union as a free state in 1861.


The 1856 United States presidential election reflected the bitter divisions in the country over the issue of slavery. Because of the unpopularity of the Civil War in Kansas, the Democratic Party rejected incumbent President Franklin Pierce and nominated James Buchanan (right), who had been out of the country as an ambassador during much of the furor over the Kansas-Nebraska issue and therefore had no record of comments on those events. The Republican Party, which had arisen out of the ashes of the Whig party, which had split over differences between its northern and southern components, nominated John C. Frémont, known as The Pathfinder because of his explorations over the Rocky Mountains and into California. His motto was &ldquoFree soil, free labor, free men, Fremont.&rdquo The American party, known as the Know Nothings because of their refusal to answer questions about their goals, nominated Millard Fillmore, who claim to be a compromise candidate.

The Democrats supported popular sovereignty as a way of deciding on the status of slavery in the new states. Although Frémont did not call for abolition of slavery, he opposed the expansion into the territories. Buchanan warned that a Republican victory might lead to a civil war, which in fact happened in the 1860 election. For a fledgling party in their first national election, the Republicans did quite well, getting 33% of the vote and 114 electoral votes to Buchanan&rsquos 45% and 174 electoral votes, although Frémont got very few votes in the South. Fillmore got 21% of the popular vote but only 8 electoral votes.

As an ardent Democrat, Buchanan had been favorable toward the south, what is the crisis over slavery grew sharper, he became more of a Unionist. But because he did little to address the divisions that were becoming extremely bitter, he is generally judged to be one of the worst American presidents. The nation was disintegrating around him, and he did little to try to stop it. When Lincoln was elected in 1860 and the southern states began succeeding, he did nothing, arguing that it was now Lincoln's problem, even though he would not be inaugurated until March.

“Shooting The Christmas Turkey”: Another Look at Slavery, Expansion, & The 1848 Election

There’s nothing quite like a 19th Century political cartoon. I stumbled across this one a week or two ago on the Library of Congress website and it was an interest reminder of 1840’s political events leading to the Civil War.

Depicting candidates and pundits of that era as characters at a turkey shoot, the artist, James S. Baillie, made quite a few statements about the election of 1848. In that election, there were three candidates for the presidency: Zachery Taylor (Whig), Lewis Cass (Democrat), and Martin Van Buren (Free Soiler).

Since the text is a little hard to read and decipher, here are some notes.

At the left center, Cass (facing front) debates with Taylor. Taylor says: “I tell you, Cass, that I prefer coming to close quarters. It will be as fair for you as for me.” Meanwhile, Cass retorts: “But I prefer long shots. It will give more chance for the exercise of skill and ingenuity.”

At the very far left, Millard Fillmore, Taylor’s vice presidential candidate, sounds the alarm: “Blood and thunder! I thought that infernal fox was dead: but he has come out of his hole and carried off the prize, while we have been disputing about the preliminaries.”

In the center, Martin Van Buren appears as a fox, trying to snatch the presidency (or the prize turkey). Van Buren had already been in the executive office as the eighth U.S. President from 1837 to 1841. However, he made a political comeback, breaking with his Democrat party and joining forces with the Free Soil Party which opposed the expansion of slavery. Van Buren spoke out against slavery while the other candidates preferred to side-step around the issue.

Behind “the fox”, David Wilmot cheers, “Huzza! Huzza! Victory! Victory!” while brandishing the Wilmot Proviso which tried unsuccessfully to curb the expansion of slavery into territory gained by the United States during the Mexican-American War.

Meanwhile, at the center of it all, Horace Greeley sits with his tally sheet, counting for Taylor and Cass. He says: “Well, Gentlemen, my place has become a sinecure. I need not keep tally for you now.” Greeley, already a successful newspaperman publishing the Tribune in New York, took his time endorsing Taylor in this election and is seen thumbing his nose at the arguing candidates.

As the history books tell us, Van Buren did not sneak off with a presidential victory in 1848. Zachery Taylor won the presidency.

However, the 1848 election and the rise of the Free Soil Party continued to keep the question of slavery as a key issue in American politics. Van Buren’s bid for the presidency was unsuccessful in winning office, but he and his supporters took a stand on the national stage against the expansion of slavery with a short-lived political party dedicated to that goal. Within a decade, the Free Soil Party would merge into the newly formed Republican Party, continuing to advocate against the expansion of slavery within the territories and new states…leading to the 1860 election and into four years of conflict over issues that the artist drew so humorously twelve years earlier.

15.2.3: Before You Move On.

Key Concepts

When Ralph Waldo Emerson proclaimed, &ldquoMexico will poison us," he quite accurately captured the effect territorial acquisition fro the Mexican-American War had on the United States. New territories raised new questions about the extension of slavery that political leaders could not easily answer in the late 1840s and early 1850s. The Wilmot Proviso, proposing to bar slavery in territories acquired from the war, touched off debate in Congress that took over four years to resolve. The gold rush forced a quick decision on the slave issue because California petitioned for statehood in 1849. Californians desired to enter the Union as a free state, and many southerners stood aghast at the real possibility of the Senate tilting in favor of the free states. Southerners threatened secession. In response, Senator Henry Clay proposed a series of measures, collectively known as the Compromise of 1850, to preserve the Union. After months of debate, Congress passed the compromise. Slavery, however, was not a matter that would disappear. Concerns about the response of those opposed to slavery to the Fugitive Slave Law and the publication of Uncle Tom&rsquos Cabinto promote the end of slavery kept North and South divided into 1852 when Democrat Franklin Pierce triumphed over Whig Winfield Scott in the presidential election.&rdquo

Test Yourself

b. would prohibit slavery in lands acquired from Mexico.

c. passed both houses of Congress.

d. would extend the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific.

a. postponed California statehood.

b. gave Texas more territory.

c. ended slavery in Washington, D.C.

d. strengthened the fugitive slave laws.

Harriet Beecher Stowe&rsquos novel Uncle Tom&rsquos Cabin

a. was perhaps the most effective piece of antislavery propaganda.

b. was perhaps the most effective piece of proslavery propaganda.

c. ended section hostilities after its publication in 1852.

d. presented a picture of happy, well-treated slaves and benevolent masters.

Watch the video: DIALOGUES: Talking and Listening Across Divides (January 2022).